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Narcotics: Pit of Despair (Part I)

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Narcotics: Pit of Despair (Part I)

Published 1967

Dark vision of drug use and its effect on American youth.

Run time 13:44
Producer Marshall (Mel)
Sponsor N/A
Audio/Visual Sd, C


Tells the story of a boy from a good home who begins using narcotics 'JUST FOR KICKS' and later becomes addicted to the point where he is dropped out of school and eventually arrested.

One of the definitive drug films of the sixties, Pit of Despair was well known to high school A-V squads. By now, we've seen and heard most of the anti-drug clichŽs, but it's still a surprise to find so many encapsulated into a single film.

Ken Smith remarks: It's a fat field, but this is the quintessential drug film. "peddlers of misery who prey on the unwary, the uninformed, the curious, the thrillseekers. Most young people will continue through life as normal, responsible citizens. Others -- the shunted and unloved, the unguided, the seekers of thrills and kicks, will become candidates for the slave world of life-long drug addiction. But no one is immune." "The formula is generally the same. Take a life of responsibility, the inability to make right choices, add to it ignorance and indifference, and top it off with a desire for escapism and kicks. The sum total is then conceivably found in the bennies, the reefer, the pot needle." "too busy with his girl, his car, his sports" sandy-haired and snaggle-toothed, John drives a snazzy british sports car; Pete is a bearded groovester who wears a ribbed turtleneck with a zippered front "...pep himself up on bennies. He's handled them before and he knows where to draw the line." "a private party...plenty of fun and laughs." "take a break from the books and live a little" "the responsibilities of growing up" "strongly etched in his character" are "the practice of putting things off, making excuses, shirking unpleasent tasks" decides to "join the party" groovy Farfisa organ Zombies music "John doesn't realize it, but he's just been cast as the star fall-guy in a real-life tragedy" narrator as nagging bad conscience; can say things no actor would; Helen flutters her false eyelashes, thrusts forward her large breasts, and lures John into the web; handheld party camera work "The exhertion of the dance, the excitement of Helen and several beers have taken effect. Inhibition and caution are forgotten. When Helen suggests they have a few more beers, he's all for it. Why not? Everyone else is doing it. To refuse would be 'square.' Besides, he's never been high on it before. And he never will. He can handle the stuff." "under the influence of the beer" she's a "hype" with a police record, "the swinger," "the hip chick of the gang" the garage is where "some of the gang are really blasting" "that's where the real action is" "Come on and take a look. Take a trip from 'Squaresville'. Live a little." "Why not? It can't do any harm to -- look." "the trippers, the grasshoppers, the hip ones" "flying high as a kite" in "their phony world of kicks" "Forget it, man, and get with the countdown. Shake this square world and blast off for Kicksville." "the feeling of 'putting one over'" "individuality, willpower, character are slipping down the drain" "the old behavior habits and excuses" "a few harmless puffs -- just to see what it's like" "Drag it, man! Try anything once! Fly! You can't get a habit from weed!" "John surrenders his dignity and lays his future on the chopping block" "Now he's too involved to think. He's having KICKS. He's away and flying. Up, up, out of this world."
"But everything that goes up must come down." "escape from the troubles he brings on himself" "he's become psychologically dependent" "He thinks only a pal can help. Help split this square world." "Psychologically he's ready to make the 'big scene'. Caution, intelligence, normal defenses go up in pot smoke." "his confused brain" "the real blast" "living hell" "venom" "Of every thousand hypes who ride the toboggan to hell, only a few ever get off." "John isn't afraid, and he ceratinly isn't 'square'." "Sweat it out, pal. You wanted kicks. Now pay the price." "At first it seemed like such harmless fun. It was hip to go along with the gang. But where's the gang now?" (and where are his parents?) "Too late he realizes that by joining to belong, he's more alone than ever." Whowho-whoooooooahhhhhhhguhguhguggggg! "The agony will reach it's peak in 36 to 72 hours and continue for two more weeks." "Cool it. Cut it. Strangle it. In the jungle land of narcotics, it's fight, claw, kill, and every man for himself." steals his mom's "best silverware" "no one must ever know he's a hopeless junkie" "shame" "stigma" suit-wearing cops burst in and arrest "another small tentacle of the drug octopus is cut off" "with a police record to haunt him as long as he lives" (fair?) "the very best treatment modern science can give" "I wonder if Pete and Hank are out of prison yet? Won't do any harm to just stop by and say hello...." There is NO END.

12:16:43 CU cobra snake
12:18:01 VS of students outside school campus
12:20:05 CU man (at running track) reflectively looking TO: great zoom in on bearded guy behind fence
12:23:26 overhead shot of party with streamers, balloons and people dancing TO: various CU shots of people euphorically dancing
12:27:51 LS of people getting high
12:31:39 MS male student in classroom receiving a 'D' on test
12:31:55 MLS from above and through fence of 2 men in 'drug deal'
12:32:31 CU 2 men in car smoking marijuana
12:32:22 LS man intoxicated stumbling into 3 women and negotiating crosswalk awkwardly
12:32:31 MS from below of looking up at man in delirium looking down at off screen space, the curb
12:33:35 CU 2 men rolling marijuana cigarettes
12:34:42 CU of man's hands preparing heroin needle
12:37:00 MS man shooting up heroin to CU
12:39:31 MS man having heroin withdrawal DT's
12:40:50 MS man shooting up man with DT's zoom in to XCU of arm and syringe shooting heroin
12:42:15 LS man entering 'pawn shop' - sign visible
12:42:39 LS policeman entering 'police department'
12:43:35 LS drug bust 2 police officers, 3 drug offenders
12:43:45 LS man in prison, MS guard opens jail door


Reviewer: JKDrummer - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - September 26, 2013
Subject: Check out this video edited
Great music using this film.
Reviewer: Holly Daggers - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - August 22, 2006
Subject: Only "Squares" get hooked...
What a gem! Everything you want from an anti-drug film! A Square is seduced into a world of drugs by sinister pushers eager to lead him by the nose from "bennies" to pot to heroin. Instead of any dialog, a narrator reads a non-stop stream of hilariously dated jargon. The first part is laugh-out-loud funny! Part 2 is predictably maudlin as the square goes through DTs and loses all respectability. 5 STARS! This is what Prellinger Archive is about!
Reviewer: hudgeliberal - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - August 11, 2006
Subject: Wonder how many watched this high.
LOL..what a great movie to watch when getting a You would be suprised to know just how many people really think this stuff is true. I am a recovering Oxycontin addict. I have been clean for almost 3 years with the help of methadone..a wonder drug for me. While I would never encourage drug use,I think people should really hear the truth about drugs. Education,treatment and understanding are the only ways to win the war on drugs. Jailing non-violent dealers and addicts does nothing but overcrowd our correctional system and put violent criminals back on the street to make room for people who need help not imprisonment. The so-called war on drugs is one of the biggest government goof ups of the past 50 years. We keep trying the same ole method of jailing non-violent addicts.,treatment and understanding are the only ways to get a handle on the rising drug epidemic.
Reviewer: Bolexman - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 2, 2006
Saw this wonderful film in Jr high school, I love how all these films from the 50's and 60's were all so heavy handed.This Film is a classic film in the drug scare propaganda genre. Download it!! and don't forget to get part 2 as well.
Reviewer: obi-jan - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 25, 2005
Subject: this is not good, its GREAT !
never seen such a wacky movie! the movie itself strongly follows the stepping stone theory (wich is sooooo out of date) of course, heroin is bad and you must never use it. its poison! better smoke a doob or two:-)

i watched it on a saturday evening with some friends and we laughed our pants off.


john uses barbiturates to "pep him up": how ironic.

the first time when we meet pete, the zoom-in is fantastic and well, quite trippy.

the party scene is "swinging" "shake this square world and blast of for kicksville!" HELL YEAH!

"due to the effects of the late hours and the alcohol, john was too sick to study" (after the pot smoking scene) They don't mention the fact that he smoked pot!

also: the music in this film absolutely rules!

i find this the "reefer madness" fim-type of the sixties, really i thought those narc guys knew the difference between stimulating drugs (amfetamines) and barbiturates !-) also, pete's haircut is too ridiculous for words ... looks like lincoln or something .
Reviewer: J. DeKay - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 19, 2005
Subject: Not necessarily stoned... but beautiful.
"C'mon man get with it! Drag it man, try anything once. Fly. You can't get a habit with weed." Whoever wrote this dialogue in 1967 must have thought that it was chock full of "hip" drug euphemisms. Also,the 'Abe Lincoln' style beard on the drug pusher is a red flag that he is a malcontent. Sorry, but that type of beard only works for Abraham Lincoln and the Amish. Unfortunately, this is the type of anti-drug film I remember seeing in junior high in the early 70's that made me curious to want to try pot. No doubt Jimi Hendrix would have wet his pants laughing at this gem.
Reviewer: scrounge - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 29, 2005
Subject: Before ringers lactate there was bennies and heroin
Interesting film with Kevin Tighe from the 1970's Emergency show starring as a person who spirals quickly down in various drug addictions. "Only squares get hooked" the narrator tells us in this voiced over film. This film depicts the character Hank (with narration) in a course of shooting smack -101. The party's over when the the swinger Helen is jonesing in police custody
Reviewer: Retro--Dee - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 6, 2004
Subject: Retro Report
Shake this dull world and blast off for kicksville!! Cmon man, get with it and smoke that reefer. Grab a spike and shoot it up. This movie features one of the most generous drug dealers known to man. Hank, a junkie character spends $100 a day on smack, keep in mind this is back in 1967. Thats one hell of a voracious appetite! 5 stars indeed.
Reviewer: Penumbra - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - August 16, 2004
Subject: Tragic Animals
Having only previously seen Kevin Tighe in John Sayles's *Matewan* and *City of Hope*, I was rather amazed to see him as a young man, although not as young as this film would have you believe.

There are some interesting animal motifs, from the opening shot of the cobra representing, one must suppose, drug addiction. Furtive and beady-eyed, the pot smokers are depicted as ratlike vermin that dwell in garages. On the other hand, partygoers presumably high on something twitch and gyrate in a decidedly simian fashion. The pusher's goat-like semblance, however signifies more sinister designs.

Typical of the "don't let this happen to you" film, it unleashes as many punishments upon the damned as possible, as redemption is not an option. Also typically symbolic of spirit having fallen fully back into nature, the protagonist is inexorably fated to a disruption of his basic survival instincts while at the same time fully enslaved within them. However fateful tragedy and morality-play cannot be reconciled: hope for those in the midst of addiction is cast off in favor of intensifying the threat to those merely on the brink.

While we don't know how unintentionally funny the actual dialogue in the film might have been, the stiff, authoritative voiceover narration is downright hilarious. Hearing "...and blast off to Kicksville" and "...riding the toboggan to Hell" spill out of his mouth is painfully absurd and side-splitting at the same time.
Reviewer: drugs are bad - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - February 4, 2004
Subject: wow
this movie changed my life, not only does it shows the negative effects of "bennies", it also describes in detail how one does heroin. thank god b/c now all those would-be addicts can see how it's really done and not risk messing up the first time. all in all this is a damned awesome movie, and oh-so true to life. i know stuff like this happens to me all the time. watch it or u'll never know the exact procedure for injecting heroin and that, my friends, who be a travesty to say the least. ;-)
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 18, 2003
Subject: Shake this square world and blast off for Kicksville!
Watching this film and realizing Kevin Tighe (Emergency!) just makes it that much more fun. Let's see, the movie was made in 1967. Tighe was born in 1944, making him one of the most oldest high school students in recent memory. Anyways, he's suffering in school, so what is a hick kid to do? He turns to drugs. First pills, then pot, then heroin. It's pretty amazing how much of an immediate dowspiral he takes. One moment he's trying heroin for the first time, the next moment he's selling his mom's silverware. Luckily an addict was caught, and, realizing she couldnt get any more heroin, rats on everyone and everybody! The ending is similar to 'Drug Addiction'. I thought this film was great! Highly reccomended!
Reviewer: carnabyfudge - favoritefavoritefavorite - June 14, 2003
Subject: Here...
Kevin Tighe was one of the stars of Emergency in the '70s. His wooden performances in that series are no match for his uptight teen loser character from Pit of Despair.
One joint and you're hooked? Shit, the first time I smoked I didn't even get high!
Judging from the scenes of this losers life he needs drugs!
Reviewer: thothic - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - January 16, 2003
Subject: Reefer Madness with needles
This is a great propaganda film with the guy from Adam West (I think). I actually used the footage for a friends music video (never released) called "Addiction" (
I'm amazed at some of the footage (espeically the herion scenes where it would seem they really did inject themselves with some type of fluid. I can't imagine they had any type of special effects back then.
Reviewer: Christine Hennig - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 15, 2002
Subject: Narcotics: Pit of Despair (Full Film)
This film is a classic of the drug-induced tragedy genre. It features John, an incredibly dorky teenager who is having trouble in school and seems to have no parental involvement in his life, though he does have a spiffy sports car and a pretty girlfriend. A drug pusher named Pete (he's the only guy in the movie with a beard, so you know he must be evil) spends most of the film getting his hooks into John, turning him from a dorky teen with a few normal teenage problems to a junkie with a police record. As if that wasn't enough, a narrator that's about as sympathetic as the one in Habit Patterns hounds him relentlessly, regaling the audience with every detail of his downhill slide. He ends up in jail and then in rehab, but even that isn't enough to redeem him in the eyes of the filmmakersÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂafter he gets out of rehab, he decides to drop in on his old buddy Pete just one more time, and the ending title card tells us "There Is No End." This film tries so hard to convince us that drug addiction could happen to anybody. Nevertheless, John is so incredibly stiff and square that he makes a most unconvincing junkie. Watching him try to dance at his first pot party is a real hoot. And I wonder why the filmmakers thought it necessary to include detailed directions for shooting up herion in the film. If you like anti-drug films, this one is a definite must-see.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****. Also available on Mental Hygiene.
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